North by Northwest 62: Take the 20th Off If You Can… and Come to Anacortes

Vigor Sea Trials M/V Samish

WSDOT Flickr Feed: Vigor Sea Trials M/V Samish

No seriously.  If you can get the 20th off, you should.  I’m only going to advertise this event once but wanted to give maximum notice so transit geeks can file to get the day off.  Granted I wish WSDOT had the M/V Samish open house and Washington Policy Center/WPC had their upcoming pundit fest on Saturday the 23rd*, but oh well.

On May 20th, it’s going to be a great day to be a transit geek in Anacortes.  One thing I should note from the get-go is that Skagit Transit Route 410 – which has connections in 413 to Burlington & 40X to Mount Vernon – will take you right up to the open house and is a short walk away from the WPC event.   Below are many details of the M/V Samish open house to check out the new ferry and get to see the wheelhouse and hopefully more normally off limits to passengers for logical reasons.

Vigor Sea Trials M/V Samish

M/V Samish Christening and Open House
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Anacortes Ferry Terminal

2100 Ferry Terminal Road Anacortes, WA 98221

Open House hours are from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Stop by any time throughout the day to explore your new ferry and take part in the festivities

Complimentary refreshments served

 Activities for kids

Christening celebration at 1:30 p.m.

Remarks from dignitaries

Tribal ceremony with the Samish Indian Nation

 Vessel christening by First Lady Trudi Inslee

This event is free of charge, open to the public and is ADA accessible.

Getting to the event

The event will be held aboard the M/V Samish at the Anacortes ferry terminal. Visitors coming from the mainland may drive and park in the upper lot of the Anacortes terminal. Visitors coming from the islands are encouraged to walk-on rather than bringing a vehicle. Passengers arriving via ferry will be issued tickets for free walk-on return passage, valid for same day travel.


Parking in the Anacortes terminal upper parking lot is free for this event. As you approach the ferry terminal, stay to the left to avoid the line for the tollbooths and follow the signs for event parking. Shuttle service will run continuously between the upper parking lot and the terminal building from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Need more info?

If you have a question about the Samish Christening and Open House or would like more information, please contact Event Coordinator Rachel Waitt at rachel.waitt-AT-wsdot-DOT-wa-DOT-gov or (206) 515-3944.

Because I’m a nice person, I decided to convert Rachel’s e-mail to anti-spam.  But based on photos of the MV Tokitae open house including inside the wheelhouse, it’s well worth the trip to Anacortes.

Also later that day between 5 PM & 7 PM, Washington Policy Center/WPC is having a free reception with all their pundits at the San Juan Airlines terminal at the Anacortes Airport – a 15 minute hike from Hwy 20 & Anacopper Rd.  All obviously includes WPC’s Transportation Center Director Bob Pishue so if you want to ask Bob a few questions in person about transit because you – like me – will be a mile or so away checking out a new ferry, you may.  Just please be polite with Bob.

Finally, Anacortes is relatively transit-friendly.  For a mere $2 dollars for an all day pass, you can use as much Skagit Transit/SKAT as you need to within Skagit County for the same day you buy the pass.  On the hour during this open house is a quick ride between the Anacortes Ferry Terminal and the downtown area where there’s fast food and seafood restaurants plus some great parks.  Just something to keep in mind.  Please fire off comments if you want some tips where to photograph or eat in Anacortes or how to get to/from Anacortes.  I’m certainly going to avail me of some of the trails.

Maybe we’ll all have an impromptu meet up at the WPC event at 1630 before I bow out at 1730 to head home… or we could meet-up on the MV Samish before the event ends at 4 & I depart to the airport.   Thoughts?

Photo credits: WSDOT Flickr Feed


*The 16th would be problematic to say the least for avgeeks due to Heritage Flight Museum & Paine Field Aviation Day – both of which seemingly require either long walks or hiring a taxicab from the nearest bus stop.  But I digress..

WPC: “Sound Transit officials may not need any tax increase to build more light rail”

Folks, if there’s any truth in this Washington Policy Center op-ed, I think we need to discuss a potential option if we do not get ST3.  Most of us here are not too keen on extending the spine to Everett with an expensive Paine Field detour of questionable value when a better bus network & a vastly improved marketing campaign would work wonders.  Almost all of us here are of the view that Ballard needs a light rail spur.

So when I came across these Washington Policy Center allegations, I had to share so we could discuss this:

Sound Transit officials may not need any tax increase to build more light rail.  How?  Because of the revenue that is hidden in the way Sound Transit officials calculate their future borrowing costs.

Sound Transit officials’ most recently adopted financial plan through 2023 assumes they will borrow $7.3 billion at a 5.75% interest rate, paid off over 30 years.  Their interest rate cost assumption is high, especially since they are actually issuing debt now at far-lower interest rates.

In 2012 Sound Transit officials borrowed $216 million at a rate of only 2.62%, less than half of what they assume as their future interest rate cost.  Just a few months ago, they borrowed $1.3 billion as a federal TIFIA loan at a 2.38% interest rate.  The TIFIA loan can be paid off over 40 years, and the first payment isn’t due until 2028!  Today, Sound Transit could borrow money for 30 years at fixed interest rates between 2% to 3% (or at lower variable rates), about half of its current budget assumption.

So what does this mean?

If Sound Transit officials simply changed their financial plan to assume a more-realistic 3% interest rate, they could borrow an additional $2.2 billion without raising regressive taxes and keep their debt payments the same.   That is enough public money to build light rail to downtown Redmond (approximately $800 million) and build much of the line from Ballard to U.W. (approximately $1.7 billion) without raising regressive tax rates at all.

Sound Transit’s financial report shows the agency thinks it can only borrow $7.3 billion at current tax rates, when they may actually be able to borrow closer to $9.4 billion without raising taxes.  This is not fair to the taxpayers.

We agree with using conservative estimates and careful budgeting by public agencies, but in this case, the interest rate estimates Sound Transit officials are using are extreme, and come at the expense of the taxpayers.

I am of the view we do need these projects as a state.  I am also of the view we need to force Snohomish County to come to reality about their transit situation.  I am finally unqualified to speak of transit needs between Tacoma & Seattle – I will leave that to the comment threads.  But this is something we in the STB community need to discuss and have a no-new-taxes contingency plan ready to unite behind and present to Sound Transit’s Board if necessary either if the legislature nips ST3 in the bud or the voters reject ST3.

One last thing: If you have evidence the above WPC op-ed is untrue, present it.  Otherwise…

North by Northwest View 16: Quit With the “Road Diets”…

Yeah, those silly “road diets”.  According to WikiPedia, road diets are:

A road diet, also called a lane reduction or road rechannelization, is a technique in transportation planning whereby the number of travel lanes and/or effective width of the road is reduced in order to achieve systemic improvements.

Actually road diets are Beyond Stupid.  Just as much as putting more lanes on I-5… Recently the Washington Policy Center’s Bob Pishue punded away:

As Sound Transit officials prepare to take over the center lanes of I-90, their newest online advertisement asks the question, “What’s to do when we’re running out of roads?”(Their edited clip was originally from a video promoting highway building.) Unsurprisingly, their answer is to build light rail.

Yet they completely ignore the fact that public officials have continually pushed to make the public “run out” of roads. State officials are reducing the six-lane viaduct to a four-lane tunnel, guaranteeing traffic snarls around Seattle. Sound Transit is taking away the center lanes of I-90 for light rail, which the State Department of Transportation estimates will increase traffic congestion despite restriping the outer lanes. Seattle’s leaders have added to gridlock by handing over roads around the city to streetcars, transit, and bike paths. Instead of providing more general purpose access on the new SR-520 Bridge for the traveling public, state lawmakers opted instead for a new bike path and HOV/transit lanes.

Getting around is already tough out there, but it gets even tougher when public officials take away road access then say we are “running out” of capacity.

According to the aforementioned WikiPedia article, road dieting also is a problem for buses:

Road diets can negatively affect the speed and reliability of transit service operating on the roadway, particularly if bus stops are located in pullouts and traffic queues delay buses attempting to re-enter traffic. Constructing bus bulbs can mitigate these effects though this feature results in delays for other vehicles.

So what do we do?  Well then:

  1. New road lanes have limited effectiveness
  2. Use better the roads we have – and if road dieting is about safety, then reduce the speed limit
  3. Never forget real congestion relief is mass transit
  4. Require new facilities like museums & airport terminals have baked in transit structural & scheduled capability.